Food

Hortaleza’s Barrio Fiesta condiments thriving as pandemic drives more home cooking

Shifting from selling beauty products to bagoong has so far been seamless for bilyonaryo Rolando Hortaleza.

Just a year after selling his personal care business, Splash (which owns Maxi-Peel and Skin White brands), for a cool P11 billion to tech billionaire Azim Premji, Hortaleza is bullish on the prospects of the “Barrio Fiesta” condiments brand with the coronavirus proving to be a boon to his products both here and abroad.

“Barrio Fiesta Foods was able to exceed even its projected sales targets amidst the crisis. We continued to receive purchase orders from our international distributor partners as they also tried to meet the demands from customers. I think the demand for our food condiments was largely driven by the sudden shift of entire families being confined indoors and forced to prepare their own meals at home,” said Hortaleza.

““I think that no business has been spared by the health and economic crisis brought about by the COVID-19. We are fortunate that being in different industry types, most of our businesses were able to balance out the effects of the crisis,” said Hortaleza who has also diversified into microlending.

Hortaleza bought the Barrio Fiesta food brands (excluding the restaurant chain which was retained by the Ongpauco family) for P472 million in 2011. The food and microfinancing divisions are under Hortaleza’s new holding firm, Prime Global.

Hortaleza said Prime Global had been laying down the foundations for its digital platform months before the coronavirus pandemic forced the Philippines and countries to go into lockdown starting in March 2020.

“Organizationally, we were able to prepare. Reading what’s been happening in Wuhan, China, all business units were directed to prepare their business continuity plans (BCPs). Even prior to the pandemic, our offices were fitted with video-conferencing facilities and everyone was on laptops as we enjoined mobility and ease of working across the organization,” said Hortaleza.

Prime Global marketing head Reychelle Ann Gigante said Barrio Fiesta products were enjoying a boom in sales “as people continue to remain at home, opting for home-cooked meals and seeing the rise of ‘home chefs’.”

Gigante said the group would boost Barrio Fiesta Foods’ online presence to cater to an expanding global market while reinforcing its presence in supermarkets, groceries, convenience stores, drug stores, and sari-sari-stores.

“For us, it won’t be one or the other, as this multi-channel availability will allow us to reach our customers in the most convenient way possible,” said Gigante.

Barrio Fiesta’s sautéed shrimp paste controls 65 percent share of the local bagoong market and 95 percent of all exports in 2019.

Barrio Fiesta exports its “bagoong” products to the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Papua New Guinea.

Barrio Fiesta’s lineup includes gourmet “patis” (fish sauce), “tubasuk” (spiced sugar cane vinegar), crispy joy breading mix, peanut butter spreads, chicken and beef broth cubes, and jumbo roasted peanuts.

“I think that no business has been spared by the health and economic crisis brought about by the COVID-19. We are fortunate that being in different industry types, most of our businesses were able to balance out the effects of the crisis within our group,” said Hortaleza.

“The coronavirus crisis is a health crisis which triggered an economic crisis that is global in scope. This is why its magnitude and impact in the lives of people and in the economies is more invasive. But challenging as it may be, most companies are able to turn it into an opportunity for them to re-invent the ways of doing business – which is what we did as well,” he added.

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